“Do you feel lucky, Punk?”
Creatively crammed in the 700 block of Seward and a short saunter from Melrose Blvd. lives the National Comedy Theater. Within this celebrated construction lives the deliberate deliciousness of ComedySportz, producers of the longest running show in Los Angeles.
Digging a bit deeper, one strikes an unexpected comedic gold mine. The Resistance.
Three late Sunday’s a month, The Resistance intentionally breathes life into a seemingly untouched hour in Hollywood. Conversely, threatening to leave audiences asphyxiated from laughter.
Even the seating process of this unique show holds a furtive feel with a hurried intensity that would make any Black Panther proud.
What follows is an exciting excursion of live action/adventure that one would have to experience to believe.
Take six severe talents and place them on a stage with nothing but mats, an intriguing genre, and incomparable imagination and one will have created an action packed brew of brilliance.
Wounded soldiers, vengeful vigilantes, a desperate mother, car chases, explosions, and police shootouts, all potential scenarios to be expertly presented each week by this faction of fearless friends.
Even the most critical consumer of long form improvisation can’t help but be sucked in to this magical mayhem.
This writer got the opportunity to speak to one of the amazing artists in the group, funnyman Chris Mathieu. The Virginia native took an afternoon to provide a small glance into the spine-tingling spectacle.
Mirage: Hi Chris! The Resistance is an amazing show.
Chris: Thank you so much!
Mirage: Your last name is very hard to spell. What’s up with that?
Chris: You’re one to talk.
Mirage: Touché. Let’s get to it, How did The Resistance start?
Chris: The Resistance started in April of 2013 when Kurt Scholler, Derek Mears, Ryan Marsico and myself began improvising a 20 minute show as part of the Mix at ComedySportz Los Angeles in Hollywood which we are all members of (our current run time is now roughly 60 minutes per show). At the time we weren't called The Resistance. In fact, the name didn't come about until a month later (around the same time Kurt Maloney and Justin Michael Terry joined the group). But we knew we loved improvising together and we wanted to create a unique, improvised action/adventure show in which we told a story from beginning to end, with a cinematic flare.
Mirage: You all have amazing chemistry! How did you start performing together?
Chris: We'd all performed with each other in one form or another prior to this show and have similar sensibilities when it comes to telling a story. That and we're all good friends who love to make each other laugh. It was an obvious fit.
Mirage: What was that first show like?
Chris: The first 20 minute show we did I believe was a Western. We had a bar fight, gun slinging, most of the tropes you'd see in that genre. It was a lot of fun. One of the best parts of that show was the introduction of these blue mats by Derek Mears. He wanted to try using them as crash pads so we could be more physical than we normally would be on a stage. It was awesome getting to throw each other on them and use them as scenery throughout the show. We've been using them ever since!
Mirage: Tell a little bit about the format/premise of the show.
Chris: It’s a show unlike any other. We'll show you an entire movie from start to finish with all the good stuff, fight scenes, love, emotion, humor. And we make the whole damn thing up!! Every show is a brand new movie.
We make it a point to emphasize the "SHOW" part of it. So the second you enter those doors, it starts. The premise is that out there in the world, you have to deal with all the bullshit, pardon my language. There are stresses of working the 9-5, dealing with family, kids, parents, every day issues. At our show, you can leave all that at the door and escape for a little bit. It's why people go to movies. But this is live and in your face, and totally made up.
Mirage: You mentioned throwing each other around. That takes some skill. What training/experience do you all have?
Chris: All of us have been performing improv for some time now. We probably have close to 70 some years in experience combined. But we also do a lot of physical training, ie. throwing punches, falling, etc. A few of the guys have martial arts experience, so they teach the rest of us who don't. Before this group I had no idea how to take a punch. Now I do, and I can assure you it's not as painful as it looks. That's a lie.
Mirage: What are your “day” jobs?
Chris: We're all actors. Movies, TV and commercials. So we do that outside of the improv thing. But there's something about the live experience that brings us all a helluva lot of joy, so we do that just as much if not more at times. And we're all creative types in one way or another. So some of us draw, make music, write, etc.
Mirage: The name “The Resistance” fits the group perfectly. How did the group come up with it?
Chris: Kurt Scholler thought of that. In the early stages when we would sit around and brainstorm, we were trying to come up with a name that helped us visualize the preshow. The idea of meeting for an underground rebellious, resistance meeting is just the perfect launch pad into an improv action show. We love to make the audience feel like they're a part of The Resistance. Because they are! We're all in it together.
Mirage: Nice. You use the genre umbrella of Action /Adventure. What made you choose this genre in particular?
Chris: We're all fans of it, first and foremost. We're really just a bunch of grown up kids who like pretending. When we were kids, it was playing cops and robbers and good guys vs. bad guys. There's an excitement to it. Plus we love the physicality involved with it. There's so much that we can do in our show that we wouldn't normally be able to play with in another genre. It's almost like a stunt show you'd see at Universal Studios, but on a smaller stage. Under the action/adventure umbrella, we've done plenty of sub genres, eg. Western, Buddy Cop, Pirate, Hometown Hero, Apocalyptic, etc.
Mirage: What has been the response?
Chris: The response has been amazing! People who have seen our show continue to come back week after week and bring their friends with them! We have some really loyal fans and they're awesome.
Mirage: Your character types are never trite. How do you keep your choices fresh and original, but also highly recognizable?
Chris: Great question. I think because we embrace the story aspect of the show, the characters we play come from what the story needs. We could do a Western 20 times but our characters would be different. Every story is different. Some improv groups tend to shy away from plot. We love it. But we also play the games in scenes, find relationships and break the 4th wall.
Mirage: You are an all male troupe. Is that intentional?
Chris: Nope! Not at all. We just knew we liked to hang out together and improvise together. It happened to be we were all guys. But I know we'd all love to have a female guest sometime in the future!
Mirage: Any interesting stories that have occurred from a show or rehearsing for a show?
Chris: There are plenty! All the fights/action scenes have definitely led to some painful moments. Kurt Scholler got hit in the head with a stool in a Zombie Apocalypse that we did. It's on tape. The sound echoes. In that same show, my character was revived by a unicorn's tears, aka. Ryan Marsico's sweat. That was filthy. As you can imagine, we play a lot of the props ourselves, so we've had some fun moments being pull up bars, showers, roller coasters, etc...
Mirage: Thanks for taking time. This is such a great show! And you all have a very obvious love of the art of improvisation.
Chris: Derek put it best once and I love this. I think most improvisers would agree. Improv is like attempting to jump 5 trash cans on your bike as a kid. Either your make it and it's amazing or you crash and burn, which can be just as amazing.
With this amazing find, yeah I feel lucky, very lucky.
Tell ‘em Mirage sent ya!
The Resistance plays every Sunday night (except the first Sunday of each month) at 9:30pm at the ComedySportz home National Comedy Theater.
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